A Latina Working Mom’s Perspective on Latino Heritage Month

Latin Biz Today partner Teany Hidalgo

Latino Heritage Month is a time for laughing, but it’s also a time for learning. Here’s why. 

Latino Heritage Month (LHM) has had a lot of notoriety in the states thanks to its many festivals and volunteer events.  Yet so many don’t know the history of how it started, and how meaningful it has been for Latinos. As an immigrant from the Dominican Republic and now a mother to a first generation American, I look for every chance to expose my family to our rich culture. I want to educate them on the events and amazing people that brought our ancestors here – and celebrations like this give me the perfect opportunity.

The Story behind Latino Heritage Month     

There’s an interesting history behind LHM that many don’t know. It was not originally intended to be a month-long celebration, but rather was a bill and program to support young Mexican Americans who were demanding fair access to government resources and education. This came about after many protests back in the 1960’s, when Latino activists demanded recognition of their culture, history, and rights. They fought to create a space for Latinos in this country, and LHM was a celebration of that effort. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the proposed legislation into law in 1968. Two decades later, on Aug. 17, 1988, Hispanic Heritage Week became legally expanded to a 30-day observance from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 under President Ronald Reagan.  

You may wonder why the month falls between 2 months – September and October. There is actually a great deal of significance there. September 15 is the anniversary of independence for many Latin American countries like Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico celebrates its independence day on September 16, and Chile on September 18. Columbus Day, or Día de la Raza, also falls within this 30-day window.     

What LHM Means to Me

As a Latina working mother, this brings to mind the vision, boldness and efforts of my parents who brought me to this country for a better life. They strove to  give me opportunities that poor farmers like them could not imagine. Their vision and strength are things I carry inside me as I build my business and raise my family. In this way, I don’t forget the importance of the steps it took to get here. 

My hope is that in learning about LHM, future generations get inspired and continue to raise the bar on how we are perceived, represented, and grow. We may no longer have to fight as hard for equal rights, although there is still prejudice, but we face other challenges as we attempt to elevate our businesses, make a name for ourselves in various industries and reach new levels in our lives. The work continues.     

This month you’ll find major cities across the United States sponsoring LHM events, and you should enjoy them! But let’s not forget the purpose of the festivities as we dance, sing, eat, and listen. It’s a reminder to volunteer our time to support our communities, as well as educating future generations on the strength we call in from our immigrant roots.     This year’s theme is Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation.” Look to your local Latino community organizations, museums, and venues to offer opportunities to bring this theme to life and recognize the work our predecessors started, and that we will continue to foster and thrive in.

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